Paper short abstract:
Workers in Lahore's media markets assert custodianship over the circulation and mobility of Pakistani films by cataloguing, retrieving, restoring, and ensuring continued access to domestically produced movies. This paper explores such non-archival contexts for accessing Pakistani visual culture.
Paper long abstract:
In the absence of a national film archive urban shop clusters in Pakistan deal in the dissemination of mass-copied films, preserving them not by altering the quality but by bringing them into the marketplace for public consumption. By cataloguing, retrieving, restoring, and ensuring continued access to domestically produced Pakistani films, workers in Lahore's media markets have forged non-archival contexts for accessing Pakistani visual culture. Once a vibrant hub of "Lollywood" film production, the filmic architectonics of urban Lahore are now made up of specialised markets selling VCDs, DVDs, and films loaded onto USB sticks. These commodity zones took shape following the arrival of VHS, audiocassette technology, and their concomitant capacious media forms. The extent to which the survival of older Pakistani films depends on such dynamics reflects a wider sphere in which the agents and actants in of the bazaar, rather than of state repositories, have asserted custodianship over the circulation and mobility of moving images and images in movement
Building on immersive ethnographic fieldwork undertaken on a street in Lahore famous for its concentration of informal film distributors, this paper seeks to understand and locate instances of knowledge transfer in non-archival situations. The arguments aim to shift focus from the discursive sphere of intellectual property to notions of guardianship and custodianship in the study of informal distribution. Such instances of temporary guardianship and mobile custodianship reflect ways in which visual materials relating to the past are disseminated, circulated, and held in reserve in Pakistan.
Participation and Guardianship: On the Ownership of Images in Movement